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5918Re: [fukuoka_farming] Gardening, naturally?

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  • Robert Monie
    Dec 7, 2006
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      Hi Jeff,

      For a brighter marriage of technology and biota, see the Eden Project (http://www.edenproject.com), which brings together the world's biomes under the shimmering transluency of "next-generation" geodesic domes and tensegrity structures engineered by Nicholas Grimshaw and Company. The Eden project respects (and openly uses) the Earth and its atmosphere and makes no attempt to transform a barren self-imposed vacuum into a quasi-Earth by terrafarming, as the Biosphere mistakenly did.

      The trouble with Biosphere is that it was (as the old English proverb goes) "neither fish nor fowl." James Loveck and other visionary scientists toyed with the idea of greening Mars and making an Earthly atmosphere there by seeding the planet with the right plants and other life forms, thus giving birth to a viable ecology, an atmosphere, a planetary Gaian system(see Lovelock's book, The Greening of Mars). The biospherians didn't run with this ball; they stumbled, fumbled, and ultimately fouled their way through it--a bad game all around. Instead of trying to terraform a little patch of, say the Moon, the biospherians decided to seal themselves up on the surface of their own planet, Mother Earth, to see if they could reconstruct her benefits with their own derivative (and drastically simplified) design. The plants and animals they set up to make a self-sufficient ecology didn't mesh or produce enough oxygen or food, so they just opened the portal seals to let in Earth's
      own air (did they also sneak in a few Pizzas and and spinach wraps?), rather like boys and girls running away from home but making sure to stuff plently of Mama's pumpkin pie in their knapsacks.

      The Biosphere wasn't much of a farm or much of a "space-ship earth" or much of a simulation of what would happen if you really tried to terrafarm other planets. The windows weren't transparent enough to allow full spectrum light in (compare Eden's which are better) and the overall design style was undistinguished (compare Bucky Fuller's beautiful botanical garden in St. Louis, Grimshaw's Eden, or both the old and the new greenhouses at Kew Gardens). One bright spot was nutritionist Roy Walford, who had done excellent work in planning an optimal diet that would extend human longevity by creative caloric restriction, but the poor man was stricken with a terminal illness (perhaps triggered by his confinement or perhaps not), and most of the other biospherians also experienced various degrees of unwellness during their period of confinement.

      Could other planets be greened? In our solar system, Earth seems to be the right size, has the right orbit and the right density to support life "naturally"; the other planets do not. Since the other planets are so different, even if we found a way to irrigate them, get plankton to grow, and seed them with microbes and plants, would they ever look anything like Earth?
      Would they exude an atmosphere like ours or would something radically different occur (something more "natural" for them?). Biosphere could not have answered any of these questions, nor could it tell us if an orbiting space station could somehow be terraformed into a mini-Earth. Biosphere did reveal some unexpected problems in trying to seal off a habitat on the Earth's surface from the Earth's natural atmosphere and attempting to duplicate that atmosphere within.

      Whether this has much practical application, I do not know. Much would I rather see Earth dwellers downsize their houses to maybe under 800 sq. feet, dig up the rest of the lot and plant on it. Mars might or might not be greenable; cities on Earth without question are.

      Bob Monie
      Zone 8
      Jeff <shultonus@...> wrote:
      HI all,

      I just finished reading a book by Jane Poynter on Biosphere 2.
      Really more of a physchological tale on isolation and group
      dynamics, but I did track down an small paper about limited details
      on the food grown there.

      It caught me as some what of a surprise how in-adequately prepared
      the Biospherians were for weed and pest problems.
      It references double dig /bio-intensive method favored by John
      Jeavons. And scientifically it compares favorably to tropical
      production of food and NASA's hydroponic efforts> (they outproduced
      other sources), however, the diet selection was hardly inspiring
      (mostly rice, peanuts, lablab beans, goat milk, bananas, sweet
      potatoes and paypays, along with various greens). Wheat and sorgum
      also made a small dent, but the sweet potato production is what kept
      them alive. They ate so much they turned orange from all the beta-
      carotine.

      What struck me as odd, is the missing of some rather important
      tropical foods: sugar cane was mentioned as being grown, and a
      processing unit was in the biosphere, but apparently, this source
      never contribuated significantly to their diet. Manioc/taro was 'not
      preferred" but not mentioned further. Also missing was Avacado, a
      great source of nutrition on calories.
      Corn was planted but not mentioned as significant. Barley is usually
      a better choice then wheat for production, unless they were wanting
      bread, which they said the didn't really eat much of (turned hard).
      Radishes and Daikons, a staple of most organic farmers (especially
      with its fast growth) wasn't mentioned as significant. Bananas were
      a staple, but not included was the more starchy plantain, which
      would stick with the biospherians longer. Other things struck me as
      odd: their low production of fish through the rice patties.... Only
      30 fish over two years, and average weight was under a pound. It
      seems to me that a tilapia/azolla systems would produce more than
      this. (6820 ft^2 in rice patties)
      She also mentioned that 3-4 hrs/per day/per person was required to
      maintain this system. NAsas finds 2-3 hours/per day/per person to
      maintain their growth.
      This to me seems excessive. My traditional home garden requires much
      much less work than this per area. And this is where permaculture
      and fukuoka types systems have a chance to shine in reduced work
      load.:
      Now taking back a step, I read the Greg Williams review and Toby
      Hemenway's response to the Permaculture critic.
      I'll summarize briefly:
      G. WIlliams (show me the money) er Show my examples and yeild data.
      T Hemenways: we don't really have good/or any data,
      T Hemenway: even if we did your missing the point,

      While Toby does desparately want data to be found, or created in the
      future, he acknoewledges that permaculture seeks something beyond
      the scientific realm, Jane and the Biospherians claim much the same
      thing, (that science, in a sense has gotten to far along
      micromanaging everything, and re really don't even hae a language
      that works to comunicate between different scientific fields.)
      Essentially ecology.
      does anyone have numbers for fukuoka production besides the bonfils
      wheat and the fukuoka rice/barley method?

      It seems to me that there needs to be a reductionist study of the
      imputs of these studies to effectively communicate the vastly
      different energy flows in these systsems to traditional scientists.
      Unfortunately , the science of nutrient/energy flow is just begining
      to get a handle on largely mono-culutral simplified systtms, belying
      the need and finances to fund such a project of the semi-functional
      buffer areas..

      Following up this thought, I would like to know which crops everyone
      thinks are the most productive for the amount of labor you put into
      them? the yield per square foot of the staples of the Biospherians
      realy surprised me> ..
      Egg plant topped the list,
      vegetables that also did well, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, onions
      and green beans.
      With sweet potatoe way behind.
      and rice being one fourth, that of sweet potatoe.
      But of course you really shouldn't live mostly on sweet potatoes,
      but that's another discussion entirely.
      Fruits were measured per plant rather than per area, so not
      comparable to this yeild.

      Any comments?
      Jeff






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